ACIFIC COUNTY — There were drunks, dumpster fires and garbage aplenty on the Fourth of July. In happier news, there were also full hotels and campgrounds and other indicators that local businesses did very well over the mid-week holiday.
A Raymond baby was injured by fireworks, but local public safety officials say that overall, the celebration was fairly peaceful.
Earlier nights, fewer fights
At sunset on July 4, hundreds of cars and trucks were parked on the sand near the Bolstad approach. Revelers dressed in flag-themed clothing moved through a haze of gunpowder-scented smoke and shouted over the constant report of detonating fireworks.
A fleet of state and local law enforcement officers moved through the crowds, stopping frequently to speak with visitors about oversized bonfires, under-aged drinking, rowdy behavior and the ban on overnight camping on the beach.
Local leaders agreed to impose stricter rules and have a stronger presence on the beach after Peninsula residents got tired of the rowdy fireworks free-for-all in 2015. While some beach-goers said they feel safer now than they did a couple of years ago, others thought the strong police presence was overkill. A middle-aged man said State Parks rangers had “harassed” his group all day long. He especially disliked being told to leave the beach by 11 p.m.
“Where’s the danger?” he said, gesturing at the surrounding partiers with the propane torch in his hand.
Drunks and drizzle
Long Beach police and sheriff’s deputies were on hand to keep the chaos from spilling into town. Long Beach volunteer firefighters parked their massive brush trucks in the dunes and watched for signs of trouble. Volunteer EMTs from several local fire departments were on standby, and Washington State Patrol troopers were on the lookout for intoxicated drivers.
That kept the troopers very busy — they handled seven DUIs on July 4, compared to eight DUIs in all of July 2017.
“You can say it was a really bad night, or a really good night,” Sgt. Brad Moon said on July 5. One of the DUI stops occurred near the wildlife refuge on Highway 101, but the rest were on the Peninsula. Two DUI stops occurred before 6 p.m., including one stop where the suspect had a blood alcohol level of 0.33 — roughly four times the legal limit of 0.08. None of the drunk drivers caused any injuries or collisions. Moon thought most of the people they cited had recently come from the beach.
“They had sand on them,” he said.
The night was otherwise uneventful for troopers, possibly because afternoon rain showers kept some people away. Moon said a few people told troopers they were heading inland in search of a drier place to party.
“I think that did actually turn people away from the beach,” Moon said.
Dog bites and a burned baby
Fire departments extinguished a handful of minor brush fires and dumpster fires, but nothing out of the ordinary. On the Peninsula, first responders dealt with a few incidents where holiday partying might have contributed indirectly. For example, rangers tried to locate a man who had a verbal altercation with his girlfriend. They found him driving on the beach later in the day, and ended up arresting him for meth possession. The man and his girlfriend appeared to be high at the time of the arrest.
There were 911 calls for a few minor scrapes and burns and one dog bite, but the only known serious injury occurred in Raymond. A six-month-old baby was “hit by fireworks, and injured on the arm and on the side of the head,” Raymond Police Chief Chuck Spoor said.
“We did respond to a medical call last night involving fireworks,” Raymond Fire Chief Todd Strozyk said on July 5. “We were dispatched at 9:17. We did transport one patient to Willapa Harbor Hospital.” The patient had “non-life-threatening injuries,” Strozyk said, but was ultimately transferred to Harborview Hospital in Seattle.
World’s longest trash heap
In a few recent years, an inbound tide inconveniently coincided with the end of the Long Beach fireworks display, leading to stuck vehicles and massive traffic jams on the busiest beach approaches. This year, the tide was outbound until about midnight. That made it much easier for people to leave the beach in an orderly way, according to Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright.
“It was pretty quiet,” Wright said on July 5. Long Beach officers didn’t make any arrests.
Wright worked late, then went back to the beach the next morning to see what it looked like.
“I’m disgusted with the amount of trash on the beach,” he said. City crews and about 600 volunteers from Grassroots Garbage Gang cleaned up the beach on July 5, but most of the people who actually left garbage all over the beach were long gone. Wright said he wouldn’t be surprised if State Parks officials eventually impose stricter fireworks rules to curtail the annual tide of patriotic trash.
No room at the inns
Local business owners had more to celebrate. Andi Day, director of the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau, said businesses were still “extremely busy, but not over-busy” on July 5.
“What we typically see when the Fourth falls on a weekday is that it’s not as busy on the actual day of the Fourth, but busier on the days surrounding,” Day said. According to Day, most campgrounds, vacation rentals and RV parks were full or nearly full, and hotels were at about 95 percent occupancy over the holiday.